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Police: Efficiency and Resourcing

Volume 725: debated on Monday 19 December 2022

Our police force is one of the best in the world and, as we approach Christmas and the new year, I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their heroic efforts this year.

I want to empower our policemen and women, stripping out unnecessary bureaucracy and boosting their numbers. That is why I asked Sir Stephen House to report back to me on productivity, with a focus on mental health. That is why I am also pleased that Cumbria police now has more than 1,000 police officers and will have the highest number in its history once its recruitment drive is complete next year.

I thank the Home Secretary for her response and for the good news about Cumbria police as well—that is always welcome.

Around 40% of the crimes committed today are fraud, but only about 1% of the police’s resources are dedicated to tackling that as an issue. Policing leaders have repeatedly told the Home Affairs Committee that a new policing model is needed to address this growing threat. Organisations such as the Royal United Services Institute have pointed the way to sensible and achievable plans for how we might be able to grow the skills, capacity and capability in policing that is needed to turn the tide not just on an epidemic of fraud, but on what is now a national security concern. Can my right hon. and learned Friend please outline what steps are being taken in the Home Office to review that capability and resourcing, and when we can expect to see the fraud plan published?

My hon. Friend speaks very powerfully about the prevalence of fraud and online crime when it comes to modern-day crime fighting. Tackling it requires a unified and co-ordinated response from Government, from law enforcement and from industry. We will publish the fraud strategy very shortly setting out the response. It will focus on prevention and on bolstering the law enforcement response. None the less, some good work is already going on. I applaud the Metropolitan police on the largest anti-fraud operation relating to the iSpoof website, which was responsible for more than 3 million fraudulent calls in 2022, and there have been 100 arrests so far. There have also been some other high-profile successes relating to fraud, but there is much more that we can do.

I warmly welcome the investment that means Thames Valley Police has already taken on more than 600 new officers. However, because most of them have to enter on a graduate programme, they are currently required to spend 20% of their time on training courses away from the police station, meaning they are not available to answer 999 calls or patrol neighbourhoods. I am delighted that, thanks to my right hon. and learned Friend’s intervention, it will after all no longer become compulsory for new police officers to have degrees. Can she explain what progress she is making to achieve that change and how it will benefit policing in Aylesbury and beyond?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight this issue. I want policing to be open to the best, the brightest and the bravest, and that does not always mean that new entrants need to have a degree. I have listened to concerns from police leaders and various people in the sector that we risk getting too academic when it comes to policing. That is why I instructed the College of Policing to design options for a new non-degree entry route, increasing choices for chief constables when it comes to recruitment and ensuring that we build a police force fit for the future. That is what common-sense policing is all about.

Across Barnsley local people are concerned about antisocial behaviour, from fly-tipping to arson. With police forces having seen cuts in the past 12 years, what are the Government doing to support them so that they have the personnel and resources to tackle antisocial behaviour in local communities?

Antisocial behaviour is a real focus for neighbourhood policing. Ultimately it depends on local police forces having increased numbers of policemen and women on the frontline, responding quickly to neighbourhood crime, antisocial behaviour, burglary, vandalism and graffiti. That is why I am glad that across the country we are seeing increased numbers of officers recruited to our ranks.

The police in my constituency work tirelessly to keep local residents safe, but every year they are asked to do more with less. We have lost Richmond police station, we have had budgets stretched further every year and our local officers are increasingly being pulled out of the community at short notice to support events in central London. Does the Home Secretary agree that a visible, regular local presence would help the Met Police to build trust with Londoners, and will she support the Liberal Democrats’ call for a return to community policing and put an end to police station closures?

The hon. Lady should take up some of her concerns about London’s policing with the Mayor of London, who I am afraid has a very disappointing track record when it comes to rising crime in London, particularly knife crime. I urge the Lib Dems to stop their meaningless opposition and get behind the Government’s plan to recruit police numbers and ensure they have the right powers.

The Home Secretary likes to talk about back to basics policing, but last week’s police grants saw core Government funding for the police fall by £62 million, with more of the budget funded through council tax, shifting the extra burden onto struggling households during the cost of living crisis. In the meantime, funding for core priorities such as fraud and serious violence has been cut by £5 million and £4.5 million respectively. Can the Home Secretary explain these cuts, or is this just a case of her Government’s abject failure to grow the economy, back our police and keep our streets safe?

I am sorry, but the hon. Lady needs to get her facts right. This Government are proposing a total police funding settlement of up to £17.2 billion in 2023-24, an increase of up to £287 million compared with 2022-23. Assuming that there is full take-up of the precept flexibility, something this Government introduced, overall police funding available to PCCs will increase by up to £523 million next year—a welcome increase and one that I hope she would support.